On Thursday night, a group of Senate Republicans released their own legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits, undercutting a separate effort offered by Sen. Jack Reed that has the support of Democratic leadership.
The Republican plan would extend the benefits, which kick in after an individual has been unemployed for at least 26 weeks, for five months including retroactive benefits. If passed immediately by both chambers, the new benefits would expire again for all beneficiaries in late May while Congress works to find a longer-term solution.
Significantly, the proposal would require beneficiaries to accept any offer of "suitable work" or any position recommended to them by a state employment agency.
The new proposal is cosponsored by the same Republican Senators that Democrats have been lobbying to support their own bill, potentially putting Reed's six-month extension in jeopardy.
The Republican plan would pay for the five-month extension by extending customs user fees through 2024, preventing beneficiaries from also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance and extending pension smoothing (which would allow employers to contribute less to their employees' pension plans).
The bill would also reform the overall program, requiring state and federal agencies involved to identify why an applicant is unemployed and "identify steps" that person should take "to improve employment prospects." It would also prevent "millionaires and billionaires" from receiving the benefits, according to a release.